Democrats to keep Lieberman in their ranks: aides

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bowing to the wishes of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, Senate Democrats seem ready to do what it takes to keep Sen. Joe Lieberman in their ranks despite his support for Republican John McCain in the 2008 White House race, party sources said on Monday.

Senate Democrats appear willing to allow Lieberman to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, but remove him as head of one of two subcommittees, the sources said.

Lieberman’s fate will be determined at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday of the 50-member Senate Democratic conference. Members will hold a secret-ballot vote after each is given time to make their respective cases for or against Lieberman, who was the party’s 2000 vice presidential nominee.

“Things could change depending on what happens at the meeting, but right now it looks like he stays in the caucus and keeps his chairmanship of the full committee,” one aide said.

A former Democrat turned independent, Lieberman riled Democrats by actively campaigning for McCain while also criticizing Obama.

But shortly after winning the November 4 election, Obama called Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and said he wanted to set aside differences and work together with Lieberman, party aides said.

“Obama basically told Reid to do what it takes to keep Lieberman in the (Democratic) caucus,” one party aide said.

Lieberman had earlier rejected calls to give up the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee.

While Lieberman did not publicly threaten to bolt to the Republican Party, another party aide said he was keeping all his options open.

Lieberman backed McCain for president largely because McCain, unlike Obama, supported the unpopular Iraq war.

Lieberman was narrowly elected to a fourth term in 2006 as an independent after losing the Democratic primary in Connecticut.